The internet is still in its infancy! Imagine if you will the web as a toddler who has learned to walk, demonstrate an awkward sprint now and then, but is really just starting to master the basics. After twenty plus years in existence the internet is just starting to take shape. With millions of new users discovering the internet for the first time every month, many users are in the same boat. The difference being today that new internet users are no longer isolated to surfing the web alone as they can instantaneously experience true connectivity to their fellow human beings, though the power of social networking online. It is this fundamental shift in the internet that will lay the base for the future web.
The traditional website in a few years will soon be a thing of the past. Today, the mass majority of the billion plus websites online could be categorized as traditional. Traditional websites being a basic presence on the web, quality information abut products & services, email communication, shopping & the growing trend of rich media. These sites are easy to navigate, but still don’t give people the warm and fuzzies the same way as test driving a car, buying a book from an actual book store or meeting a friend for a coffee at Starbucks. Frankly, until virtual reality becomes main stream, most likely somewhere around 2020, it will be hard to compete with the real world charm, and that’s probably a good thing for now.
But alas, over the last couple of years it comes as no surprise that 3 of the top ten sites on the internet would be defined as online social networks. The two most prolific would be MySpace & YouTube. These sites themselves will not be responsible for the death of the traditional website, but they certainly paved the path and planted seeds for the coming end days of standard web development.
Think of evolution, think of natural progression and it becomes almost logical that users will demand a better mouse trap. Let’s use an example of a traditional website built by a hair salon. XYZ Salon designed their cutting edge website in 2002, with an About Us page, Contact Us page; Shopping Cart, Services Page, & they even recently updated their site with Client Testimonials and Google Maps so clients could easily find and refer them new clientele. They built this site because this is what web designers were building in 2002, and in fact most websites are still built this way today.
Now fast forward a few years, and imagine every website being built was based on a foundation of social networking. Not clones of MySpace or YouTube, but custom designed for businesses by web designers & webmasters. This hair salon in 2008 still has a traditional presence on the web, with as many traditional content pages as they want, but their clients, users and visitors are able to interact and grow along with their favorite hair salon. A client is encouraged by their hairdresser to visit the website to see a few new styles the business has posted, or enter a contest, but discovers a completely different experience. Surprisingly online, this hair salons clientele actually connect with each other, chat, reviews hairstylists ideas, blog about hair and other topics, buy & review products, post pictures and one lady even has posted her wedding video because she was so ecstatic about her hair on her wedding day. Social networking is the modern day equivalent to real world word of mouth advertising. It is a way for your evangelist customers to jump up on the soap box and sing the praises of your business, book, artwork or whatever you are doing online. The site is designed to invite and have friends, so you are not only friends with you hairdresser, but as well are inviting your friends you know who are looking for a quality stylist like yours. Is it the same as walking into the hair salon, NO! Is it better than the traditional website, for most businesses who are interested being online to actually grow, YES!
The traditional website will certainly have its place, for those businesses, sites and fads that don’t want their customers to interact. Sure there will be sites that for security reasons choose not go the social networking route, but it will be a decision that can not be made lightly. No matter what ethical business you are in or site you are running, the technology will be available to secure information that needs to stay private, and still let your customers or fans interact. It is this interaction, or social networking, that screams that you are “Trustworthy”. If my best friend Sue, who invited me to your site, says you are awesome and trustworthy, then “I trust you too!” That’s word of mouth advertising in an online world.
So I ask, “Do you think social networking will snuff out the traditional website?”
Lee Raito, CFP, FMA
Co-Founder of The Social Platform www.tuyu.com